Speedy and Jet won 3rd Place Palanca Award for Short Story for
Children in English in 1997.
Once upon a time, in a distant valley, there was a small vineyard tended by a farmer.
Early each spring, the farmer made sure that the grapevines grew solidly from the arbor down to the roots. He knew that when the vines slowly crawled and reached the top of the arbor, they would spread out and start to bear fruits.
In the late summer or early fall, bunches and bunches of large plump grapes could be seen hanging from the arbor. The farmer allowed the fruits to grow into their ripe color.
One day, all the grapes had turned into a purple color.
“It is time to harvest the grapes,” said the farmer.
He hired workers to help him pick the grapes. They started very early in the morning. Everybody worked hard and fast. By sundown, all the grapes were packed in baskets, ready for the market.
But not all grapes made it to the market. On the ground, beneath the arbor, laid the overripe and underripe grapes. Bugs and insects living around the vineyard started to gather around them.
Two young snails, Speedy and Jet, also came for the grapes.
Jet took one bite. “This grape is mashed! I don’t like the taste of it!” he exclaimed.
“This one is bitter. I don’t think it’s ripe,” complained Speedy. “Why do we come here every year to eat these grapes?”
“I guess it’s because they are there.”
Speedy looked up at the bare grapevines and said, “What about the ones that the farmer picked up today? How come we never eat those? It’s always there, too!”
“Because those are beyond our reach,” answered Jet.
“Hmmm, I wonder what they taste like? I bet they taste different. I bet they taste delicious.”
“Well, we will never know, will we?” Jet turned slowly and went away, leaving Speedy staring at the empty grapevines, wondering.
That evening, before they went to bed, Speedy suddenly exclaimed: “Next year, before the farmer comes to pick the grapes, I am going to taste one of those large and plump grapes.”
“And how do you intend to do that?”
“I’ll think of a way,” said Speedy.
Jet grew up with Speedy. He knew Speedy liked to daydream, so he did not say anything. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Speedy stayed awake the whole evening. He was so excited about his plans. In fact, all throughout the winter, he talked about nothing except ways on how to get to the grapes.
Spring came. Speedy saw that the farmer had returned to work on the grapevines.
“Soon the grapevines will start to bear fruit. I have to find a way to get to the top of the arbor.”
Speedy looked around him and saw Mr. Leap, the frog, coming his way.
“Good morning, Mr. Leap, can I ask you a favor?”
“How can I help you, my dear child?”
“I wonder if you would allow me to sit on your back, then you jump as high as you can and carry me up to the top?”
“Hop on,” said the frog.
Speedy climbed up and sat on the frog’s back. Mr. Leap then gave a strong hind kick, but before he landed on the other side, Speedy had already fallen to the ground.
“Sorry, I don’t think it will work. Maybe you can find somebody else to help you.” Mr. Leap bade Speedy goodbye, hopped, and disappeared into the pond.
“Are you okay? I saw you fall off Mr. Leap’s back. What were you trying to do?”
Speedy explained to Jet his idea and Jet laughed. “Give it up, my friend. I don’t think there is any way you can get up there.”
Speedy looked around and he saw a troop of ants marching by. He rippled up to their leader.
“Excuse me, General, can I ask you a favor?”
“What can I do for you, my child?”
“I wonder if your troops can carry me to the top of the arbor? There are so many of you and you all look so strong.”
“Okay,” said the General. The troop gathered around Speedy and picked him up. They marched down until they reached the stem. But when they tried to carry him up the stem, the whole troop collapsed. Again Speedy fell to the ground.
“Sorry, you’re too heavy, maybe you can find somebody else to help you.” The General and the troops bade him goodbye, turned, and marched into the tall grass.
Jet saw the whole thing. He shook his head and said, “Are you trying to get yourself killed? Why don’t you give up the silly idea?”
“There must be a way, there must be,” Speedy sighed.
The following morning, Speedy went up to Jet and cheerfully announced his plan.
“My friend, I have the answer. If I want to reach the top of the arbor and taste the grapes, then nobody else can help me except myself. I shall climb the grapevines myself.”
“Impossible! You’ll never make it!” Jet screamed.
“Impossible? What makes you say that?”
“Do you have any idea how high it is? Do you have any idea how far the journey is?”
“I do,” smiled Speedy. “I also know exactly how slow I move. That is why I have to start my climb now, and hopefully, by the time I reach the top, the grapes will be ripe. Now I have to bid you farewell.”
Jet looked up as he watched Speedy start his slow climb. “It’s going to be a long and lonely climb,” he said to himself.
Meanwhile, Speedy climbed the vines, moving very slowly. From time to time, he looked down below and still saw Jet looking up at him.
“Do not worry, Jet; I will be all right,” he whispered.
Days passed, then weeks. Speedy the snail was still climbing those vines.
There were times when the sun was so hot that Speedy hid himself behind the leaves and continued his climb in the night. In the morning, he drank the morning dew to quench his thirst. He fed on the young leaves from the grapevines.
One day, Speedy met a caterpillar. The caterpillar was surprised to see him.
“What are you doing here?”
“I am on my way to the top of the trellis. I want to taste the grapes there,” answered Speedy.
“You are only halfway there. By the time you reach the top, the farmer and his workers will be here to harvest the grapes. Go back, you don’t want to get yourself in danger.”
“I’ll not go back. Instead, I’ll climb faster. I have to be there before the farmer and his workers arrive.”
So now Speedy climbed those vines faster. He did not dare stop to hide behind the leaves. All day and night, he did nothing but climb those vines.
Until at last, one fine morning, Speedy found himself on top of the arbor.
“I made it…I made it!” he shouted.
Speedy lowered himself to a bunch of grapes he found hanging on the vines. He made sure that the grapes were big and plump. He also made sure that they were just ripe and of the right color.
Speedy embraced one of the grapes and said, “Mmmmm….It even smells nice.”
He took a bite and exclaimed, “Oh my, this is so delicious. The juice is sweet and the meat is firm. I don’t think that I have ever tasted something so good in my entire life!”
He finished eating one whole grape. Just as he was about to start with the second one, a butterfly came flying by.
“You better get out of there fast. The farmer and the workers are heading this way.”
“Who are you? Do I know you? How come you know that I am here?”
“I was the caterpillar you met when you were halfway coming up,” said the butterfly. “Honestly, I did not think you were going to make it, but your will power is so strong. I really admire you for that.”
“Now get out fast,” said the butterfly.
“I cannot. I do not fly nor do I know how to run.” Speedy tried to stay calm.
“Let go. Stop holding on to the grapes.”
“No. The drop is too high. I will just get myself killed.”
The butterfly flew around in circles, “Trust me, nothing will happen to you. Your friends are waiting for you down below. Just let go. You are in good hands.”
Speedy could already hear the sound of the footsteps. He had no other choice but to let go. He decided to trust the butterfly.
He let go of the grape and fell.
“Wheeeeeee…!” he screamed.
It took only three seconds for him to reach the ground. He landed on a large bed of leaves carefully gathered below.
“Wow! That was fun.”
Speedy turned around and saw Jet standing behind him. “I’m glad to be back. Tell me, where did this bed of leaves come from?”
“I started gathering the fallen leaves the day you started the climb. But it was not an easy task. For I, like you, also move very slow. When Mr. Leap and the General heard that you had decided to climb the vines yourself, they were impressed. They admired your courage and determination. So while you were climbing those grapevines, they helped make the bed of leaves. I could not do it alone. But with the help of our friends, the impossible became possible.”
Speedy thanked Mr. Leap, the General, and the Butterfly.
“So how was the grape?,” asked Jet.
“It’s beyond words. Tell you what. Next year, I’ll gather the leaves for the bed while you climb the vines for the grapes. Deal?”
The good friends looked at each other, smiled, and slowly rippled home.
Jeanne Lim has won the Palanca and Cinemalaya awards for her short stories and screenplays. In 2009, the Davao Writers Guild published her works in two books, “Tradisyon” and “In My Own Little Corner.” This story initially came out in “In My Own Little Corner.”